<
>

Takeaways key to Monte Kiffin's success

IRVING, Texas -- As the Dallas Cowboys trotted out their newly formed coaching staff Thursday, maybe it was just coincidence that Monte Kiffin was first to speak.

Maybe it was an age thing, and the 72-year-old defensive coordinator got the first round of questions from the gaggle of reporters at the team's Valley Ranch practice facility.

"I'm no big deal," Kiffin said. "I'm really not."

Sorry, coach, you are a big deal. You have to be a big deal. You better be a big deal.

Coach, you and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli are being asked to do a major rebuilding job. You will have some talent on defense, but not nearly as much as your predecessor Rob Ryan always bragged about. And you might be down the Cowboys' best defender from 2012 in Anthony Spencer, who will be an unrestricted free agent.

The actual move from the 3-4 to the 4-3 will be the easiest part.

"I mean, a 3-4, a 4-3, it doesn't matter," KIffin said. "Last time I checked you got 11 guys on the field, right? Not eight, not nine, not 10. That's not good. We got 12? That's not good either. We're going to get a penalty."

Counting to 11 was an issue for Ryan's defenses, so you will have a leg up there. No, Monte, the most difficult part will be turning players who have not shown the ability to create turnovers over the past few years into a unit like those that did it regularly for you in Tampa Bay.

In Kiffin's run as the Buccaneers' coordinator from 1996 to 2008, Tampa Bay averaged 19 interceptions, 12 fumble recoveries and 39 sacks a season.

Only three times since Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989 has a Dallas defense had more than 19 interceptions. The Cowboys intercepted seven passes last season, led by Brandon Carr's three.

Read more about the Cowboys' defense under Kiffin here.